Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Our cats don't like cat scans

In addition to interesting titbits about science, Jerry Coyne at the Why Evolution is True website likes to post about cats. (Having two cats, I can appreciate this!) One of the more recent ones was about cat scans (and a contest). In case you've not come across this, there is a whole website dedicated to "cat scanning" - literally putting your kittie on a flatbed scanner and scanning it!

Inspired, we decided to have a go ourselves. It turns our two are not big fans of the cat scanning! Not even a strategic use of cat treats could overcome their suspicion of the moving (and whirring) white line. A couple of spectacular dismounts left me with one bit of advice for would-be cat scanners: put the scanner on the floor!

Oh well. They won't be winning any prizes but here's our offering to the crazy world of the cat scan:




Monday, 29 August 2011

Intelligent Design in a Nutshell

Pre-Darwin biologist: "I can see that lots of animals (and fossils) are clearly similar to each other, and share anatomical features across even very distant taxa. Life certainly looks like it's evolved. The problem is, I just don't understand how a random process could have led to such exquisite adaptation: there must have been a Designer."

Darwin: "Hang on, I have an idea. If there are more offspring born each generation than survive to reproduce, then there must be a struggle between individuals for survival. And, if there is variation between individuals such that some individuals are inherently better equipped to survive and/or reproduce, then the result of this competition will be (to some extent) non-random and those individuals who are better adapted will have more offspring than those that are not. And, if there is inheritance of characteristics from parent to offspring, the next generation will be better adapted, on average, than the previous generation as a result. Aaaand, if variation is something that enters the population at each generation, this cycle will continue, resulting in more and more adapted individuals. Over many, many generations, exquisite adaptations can evolve."

Post-Darwin biologist: "Competition: check. Variation: check. Inheritance: check. Mutation: check. Genius! Not only is adaptation from random variation explained, it is hard to see how it could not happen! Well done, Darwin - an elegant solution to a tricky problem. All those oddities in nature make so much more sense, now."

Intelligent Design: "The problem is, I just don't understand how a random process could have led to such exquisite adaptation: there must have been a Designer."

Well done guys... Your big "problem" with Darwin is precisely the problem he elegantly solved 150 years ago. Bravo.

Location:Mostly America but other places too (sadly)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ain't Life Grand with a 12yo Dalmore

I'm not a big fan of washing up. (Who is?) I am a big fan of (good) whisky and music, however, and sometimes such things can combine in a moment of excellence that even washing up becomes enjoyable. Such a combination happened for me earlier this week, with a very nice 12 year old Dalmore, which is possibly my favourite whisky, and "Ain't Life Grand" by Slash's Snakepit, one of my favourite albums.

With whisky, I generally go for something very peaty, like a Laphroig or Lagavulin. The problem with these, though, is that I really have to be in the right mood to appreciate them. Dalmore, whilst still (to my amateur palate) clearly a Highland whisky, is not as smoky as these guys but is much more approachable as a result.

Like the Dalmore, Slash's Snakepit are also a fairly recent discovery for me - the album "Ain't Life Grand" is only a little younger than the whisky, with a release date of 2000. Personally, I think Guns 'n' Roses peaked with "Appetite for Destruction" but some of my favourite Slash guitar work is post GNR. Snakepit doesn't have the same vocal presence as GNR but "Ain't Life Grand" is packed full of great riffs and solid rock music. It may be a bit Old School but it's good Old School. In terms of individual great tracks, I think "Appetite for Destruction" still has the edge but, as an album, I think I'd have to side with "Ain't Life Grand". A must for Slash fans and lovers of good rock guitar.

Location:Southampton, UK

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rage Against the Running Machine

This gym session, I was mostly listening to Rage, a Scandinavian rock group. As their album art indicates, these guys are at the heavier end of the spectrum but don't let that put you off. This stuff is far from a wall of noise. The guitar work is particularly good, with every track laden with rocking riffs. I won't deny that a certain amount of fret wanking goes on but it's always perfectly timed and never seems gratuitous.




If I had to pick a weak element, it would be the vocals. There's nothing wrong with them - no out of tone wailing or excessive screaming - but you can very much tell that they're a Scandinavian rock group and it's simply not my favourite voice. It's not hard to imagine a large bearded fellow, singing into a battle axe a la Lordi on Eurovision. For some songs this works particularly well but it is definitely the aspect of their sound that I tire of first.




Nevertheless, Rage are excellent gym music companions. Not only are they loud, and a little bit angry, but a lot of their songs border on frenetic, which is great for the treadmill.

Gym goer or not, if you are a rocker then check out Rage as soon as possible.

Equipment used: treadmill, vertical traction
Distance: 5km
Future goal: get myself a program

Location:LA Fitness, Southampton, UK

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Stretching my gym motivation to breaking point

[Warning: self-indulgent gym post]

Tonight, I went to the gym again, bringing my average gym costs since June down to just £25 per visit. Hooray!

My new plan is to try out a new machine each visit, until I have worked through them all. Having not yet re-booked for a session plan with a fitness guy (or gal), I went for something easy: the rowing machine. I'm also determined not to "travel" under 5km, so I ran 3km and rowed 2km before a cool-down perambulation (if you can perambulate on a treadmill) and a quick spell with the free weights. A very quick spell.

One problem I have in the gym is that I feel exposed and stupid as soon as I step away from the machines. I don't really know what I am doing when it comes to free weight exercises and stretches. Added to that, I'm not exactly Hercules, so I can only really work with pretty weedy weights, especially if I'm already knackered from rowing etc. Combine this with the fact that the free workout area is pretty small and (it seems) never empty, and you have one very uncomfortable and self-conscious exerciser.

I feel that exercise of this nature is a bit like dancing - if you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, you look uncomfortable self-conscious. I therefore cut my exercise a bit short and saved my stretches for the changing room (and only then because it was almost empty). Perhaps I should sign myself up for one of the classes in an attempt to face (and conquer) my fear of looking stupid and uncomfortable.

Equipment used: treadmill, rowing machine, free weight
Distance: 3.5km (run); 2km (row)
Future goal: stretch in public after exercise

Location:LA Fitness, Southampton, UK

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

From Selfish Genes to Public Goods

Most people have heard of "The Selfish Gene" and many will know what it's about. For those that don't... in essence, it is about "genes" as the primary driving force of evolution. A "gene" in this context is a piece of DNA within some form of entity that replicates that DNA. The rules are simple: if that piece of DNA does anything to increase the chance of its future replication and persistence, it will spread. Usually, we perceive this as a "gene" having some positive beneficial effect on the organism to which it "belongs" (or, perhaps more accurately, within which it is carried and replicated). Life, as usual, is more complicated than that, however, and examples exist of "genes" that spread at the cost of their replicator host - viruses and transposable elements being two such examples.

The point is, though, the genes are "in it for themselves". Yes, they often form complex cooperatives - genomes - that build intricate organisms but only because the members of those cooperatives replicate more successfully in this fashion than going it alone. Natural Selection is not about the good of the species, or even the good of the individual, it is the good of The Selfish Gene.

As you can tell, I am a big fan of this gene's-eye view of evolution. It begs the question, though, if the units of evolution are genes, where does this leave organisms? Species? Even genomes? How does this marry with the standard "Tree of Life" (TOL) model of evolution, in which all species are gradually splitting and diverging over time, carrying their genes with them?

In their recent Biology Direct paper, The public goods hypothesis for the evolution of life on Earth, James McInerney et al. summarise the issue quite nicely. "Horizontal Gene Transfer" (HGT) - essentially the passing of genetic material from one organism to another, other than to offspring (and often a different species) - is widespread, especially in bacteria. So widespread, in fact, that the TOL hypothesis just does not hold up. Instead, we should take a economist-style view of genes as "public goods", with the evolution of Life on Earth as the product of sampling (and retention) of different genes over time, rather than a TOL pattern of bifurcation and divergence.

Of course, the story is a lot richer than that and builds on a body of other ideas. It is also not without criticism. I strongly encourage you to read the paper and the interesting discussion with reviewers that can be found at the end of the manuscript. Time will tell whether the Public Goods hypothesis really offers something more than TOL+HGT but it's definitely something worth considering.

So what does this mean for evolution? Does questioning the TOL put evolution in peril? Well, no. It is important to point out that the genes themselves are still evolving in a tree-like fashion. Molecular evolution and molecular phylogenetics is not substantially altered by this idea. What is altered is the way we interpret this molecular data in terms of trying to determine the relationship of "species", especially bacteria. This is nothing new - the "species" concept for bacteria has been dead for a long time, to be honest - but it potentially gives us some new tools and ideas with which to probe the Natural History of prokaryotic life with more clarity and insight than ever before.

And what about all the claims us evolutionary biologists make about the molecular evidence for evolution, and how we get remarkably consistent trees when looking at different genes from a set of animals? Was that all lies? Well, no. It is also important to point out that the problems with the TOL are largely restricted to bacteria, viruses and the like. For eukaryotes - e.g. plants, animals, fungi - the tree picture is still pretty solid. The authors themselves make a nice analogy with mechanics. Quantum Mechanics did not stop previous observations about Newtonian Mechanics being right, it just extended our understanding into realms where our old Newtonian understanding began to break down. I am not sure whether this idea represents such a game-changer but I do know that it's a exciting, if slightly head-wrecking, time to be a microbial geneticist.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It's a workout, Gym, but not as we know it

Today, I went to the gym for the first time in quite a few weeks. Too many weeks. So many weeks, in fact, I couldn't even remember when I last went to the gym, so I looked it up. It was June 22 - exactly two months ago, almost to the minute.

Last time, I got a free trial session with a personal trainer. It was pretty good but I was literally still hurting a little a week later - part of the plethora of lame-assed excuses that stopped me going back since. Another part was the shame of seeing said personal trainer, having seemed so keen at the time and then failed to turn up again.

So why go now? Well, the time has come to reverse the polarity of the shaming beam. A friend has just signed up at the same gym and went first thing on Sunday morning, of all times. Then, my wife went earlier today. Finally, of course, there is Rule #1: Cardio. It was time to climb back on the horse. Or, more accurately, back on the treadmill. Without a horse: that would be cheating.

This blog is the final cog in the wheel of shame. My wife and friends are too nice to really make me feel shame for my non-attendance. Instead, therefore, I shall here record my triumphs, or acknowledge my lazy lameness, to be forever electronically recorded for posterity. Or, at least, until the inevitable EM pulse from World War III takes out Google.

Machines used: treadmill
Time run: 30 min
Distance: 5km
Rehydration: lucozade sport, raspberry

Location:LA Fitness, Southampton,United Kingdom

Monday, 22 August 2011

McGuigan Bin No. 528... what can I say?

I like wine. I never used to like wine. Then I discovered that I didn't like cheap wine. This was unfortunate, as all I could afford (or, at least, was prepared to fork out for) as a student.

Now, my palate (and wallet) have improved a touch, my enjoyment of wine has likewise increased. That said, I still like a bargain, and don't know that much, so I like to go for the half price wines, like this one (£5 at Sainsburys):

Sadly, while my palate has improved enough to increase my enjoyment, it has not yet resulted in an ability to describe wine with anything resembling sophistication. This one's nice for drinking, though!

Location:Southampton, UK

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bug-Bombing Biofilms

This weeks's Science Now has a really cool example of the awesome power of genetics and genetic engineering. Published in Molecular Systems Biology, a paper by Nazanin Saeidi et al. describes the construction of a bacterial bomb designed to take out Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a nasty biofilm-forming human pathogen.

Traditionally, we think about bacteria a single-celled organisms but this is often not really the case. In many situations, populations of bacteria form multicellular masses called biofilms. These can be a big problem, particularly for human disease, because the biofilm structure can make the bugs resistant to regular antibiotic attack.

Bring in the Special Forces. Saeidi et al. took another bacterium - workhorse of the molecular biology lab, Escherichia coli - and pimped it out to be a Pseudomonas aeruginosa killing machine, using many of the own pathogen's weapons against it. Essentially, the system was comprised of three parts:

1. The E. coli were engineered to recognise the "quorum sensing" signals that the Pseudomonas naturally produce to communicate during biofilm formation.

2. The quorum sensing receptor was genetically wired up to a gene that produced a toxin, pyocin, that had been modified to kill Pseudomonas. (In fact, they modified the very toxin that Pseudomonas uses to kill other bacteria during biofilm formation.)

3. The sensor was also wired up to a self-destruct mechanism, switching on expression of a lysis protein that, once enough had accumulated, would cause the cell to burst.

The net result is an E. coli that can sense when it is near Pseudomonas biofilms and, once the density is high enough, will start producing the pyocin toxin and the self-destruct lysis protein. After a period of accumulation, the cell bursts and all the surrounding Pseudomonas are exposed to the toxin, hopefully killing them.

The paper was just proof of principle, really. They were able to kill 90-99% of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with their new bug-bomb but there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome before this could be considered as a treatment for Cystic Fibrosis and other biofilm-related diseases. For one thing, it is not clear how harmful the E. coli, itself a human pathogen, or its toxic cargo would be to the patient or the other "friendly" bacteria in their bodies.

Despite this, though, I still think it is cool. Just being able to engineer something like this that works is a demonstration of how awesome molecular biology and genetics is in the 21st Century. Even if human diseases cannot be targeted directly with such techniques, biofilms also cause problems outside the body, such as in water pipes or on surgical instruments, and having another potential weapon in the arsenal to fight them is always welcome.

Friday, 19 August 2011

There is no such thing as "The Theory of Evolution"

There is the fact of evolution - the undeniable* accumulation of data and observations that lead inescapably* the conclusion that all life we have encountered shared, and evolved from, a common ancestor. (*Undeniable and inescapable without some serious mental gymnastics, buckets of untruths (either through forgivable ignorance or less forgivable deceit) and, most importantly, an agenda to deny this scientific truth.) Then, there is evolutionary theory - a body of different theories put forward to explain different aspects of these observations and data. Best of all, in my humble opinion, there is the application of evolutionary theory - my own field of research - in which we use the fact of evolution, the theories about the underlying mechanisms, and the enormous quantity of data we have accumulated to make predictions about areas of biology for which we have less data. Evolutionary theory is used to design lab experiments, manage conservation projects and find cures (and causes) for diseases.

If you are confused about the whole evolution fact/theory thing, it is explained really well in this recent blog post by Larry Moran. In it, he points out that "The Theory of Evolution" (singular) does not really exist. There is no single theory that encompasses all aspects of evolution. (Even the current observation that all life on Earth evolved from a single common ancestor is not "The Theory of Evolution" - evolution would be just as true if it turns out there are multiple unique ancestors, although it would take some serious new data to suggest this.) So, he argues, let's stop using the phrase, which gives Creationists something to distort and confuse people with. I agree.

It's late, so my own summary will be more succinct... Evolution. It works, bitches!


I eat waffles, therefore I waffle


I just changed my profile picture to this one of me eating a lovely Belgian waffle in Bruges and it got me thinking about food/verb homonyms - words that are food but also verbs. Like waffle. I like waffle. And, I like to waffle, as you (and my poor students) can tell.

But then I got thinking about other ones: cake, chip, chop, cream, fish, jam, juice, milk, toast... all yummy things. Sprout. Hmm. (Actually, I like sprouts.)

Some of these of course, are foods named after verbs. Chips, for example, are chips because they were chipped from potatoes. Likewise, chops were chopped and toast was toasted. Some are the other way round: you fish to get fish, milk to get milk and juice to get juice. Not so sure about cake, though. And back to waffle... Where does that come from?

Then we can cast the net wider with homophones: I drink wine, I whine; I eat meat, I meet; I eat a plum, I plumb. OK, so I might be scraping the barrel with that one. (I'm a bad plumber, clearly.) I'm sure I had some better ones when I started writing this post but my mind's gone blank. Oh well. Perhaps they will come back to me. In the meantime, I think I shall go and chock a lot.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Even by Homeopathic standards, this is stupid

This story is covered much better at sciencebasedmedicine.org but it's so gob-smacking, I just had to write something. It's seems that the industry does a good job of convincing people that homeopathy is the same as "natural" or "herbal" remedies. It isn't. It literally has no active ingredients and apparently they don't like little people pointing this out.

Basically, a large multinational corporation (Boiron) is threatening a lone Italian blogger for pointing out that one of their products did not contain the active ingredient they claimed. No surprises there, given that homeopathy is expensive water and has no active ingredients of any kind. (According to geeks who have done the maths, the stated dilution is approx. equivalent of diluting one teaspoon of substance in a volume of water the size of the Universe.)

What is more surprising is that the "active ingredient" - oscillococcinum - almost certainly does not even exist before it is diluted! All the evidence points to it being an early Twentieth Century microscopy artefact. There is certainly no evidence that it does anything, let alone cause the symptoms of flu, which is at the heart of Homeopathic nonsense (despite an utter lack of any theoretical or empirical scientific basis, remember). Naturally, as even the existence of oscillococcinum is unproven, the idea that the duck liver extract being diluted to non-existence is high in oscillococcinum is pure speculative fantasy.

Even by Homeopathic standards, oscillococcinum appears to be sham. While every single step of the Homeopathic method lacks evidence and totally contradicts modern scientific understanding, oscillococcinum seems to contradict the homeopathic principles too. No wonder they don't want anyone drawing attention to it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A website reborn

Finally, I have got round to tidying up my website after the transition from GooglePages to GoogleSites stuffed it up, somewhat. It's a bit of a random mix of stuff and, to be honest, is largely superseded by this very blog but I thought I should say something after spending two hours fixing broken links!

There is a bit of anti-Creationism stuff for those who like that kind of thing. I'm avoiding it at the moment because all the lies make me angry but, as an evolutionary biologist, I feel like I have a civic duty to wade into that battlefield from time to time. (Fortunately, there are lots of others out there doing it better than I.)

It also has some amusing pictures of me in past days, such as the old passport photo shown here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Piraten Whisky: pirates with taste stick to rum

I feel like yesterday's comment about German Whisky needs some context/explanation. This is it:


I only really have one word for it: avoid!

The Natural History Museum rocks!

On Saturday, I had a second birthday, like the Queen. My wife had bought us tickets for the BBC Comedy Prom (a future blog topic) in the Royal Albert Hall, London, so we had a bit of a day out in The Big Smoke. After a yummy brunch in Southampton (another future post), we jumped on the train and headed to South Kensington - some of the best museums in London are handily within a stone's throw of the Concert Hall. (Don't throw stones at it, though.)


The Natural History Museum must be one of my favourite places. Anywhere. Every time I go, I'm struck by how awesome the place is. Arriving early afternoon, we had to queue for a bit to get in (next time's going to pay to become a member and fast-track) but that just gave an opportunity to soak in a bit of the exterior.

It's such an impressive place in every way. Not only is it massive, and the displays excellent, but the building itself is a work of art. Everywhere you look, inside or out, there is amazing attention to detail, with animals carved into columns or pillars with nature-inspired geometric patterns. The ceiling of the main hall is covered with stunning botanical artwork.

Being a biologist, I normally visit the biological displays when I go to the NHM. (You can't beat fossils of crazy prehistoric beasties, like the giant sloth.) This time, for a change, we went to the Earth zone and had a look at the rocks.

"There's nothing to see here, they're just rocks," said one mother (sadly) to her daughter as she dragged her through the "red zone" towards the exit. I am hoping that these were purely words born out of frustration due to having reached "museum saturation" but I still feel sorry for the discouraged child, for these are not just rocks!



Take these crystals, for example. Stibnite on the left and pyrite ("Fool's Gold") on the right. Not the best photos but enough to give an impression of how crazy they are... and they're completely natural. If you ever wanted an example of how something amazing can just spontaneously arise from natural forces, look no further. "Just rocks", indeed!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Guillon French whisky - it's better than the German stuff.

In addition to tasting my first Swiss whisky, I also sampled my first French whisky today. It wasn't bad. Again, nothing like Scottish or Irish whisky, but not inherently bad. I'd still prefer a nice Lagavulin or Laphroaig but it was palatable - and that's more than I can say for some.

Santis Malt: Swiss whiskey for people who don't like whiskey

I had my first Swiss whiskey tonight. Santis single malt. Stored in oak *beer* casks, it tastes nothing like regular whiskey. Good though! Odd but good. Sweet. Can taste the beeriness. Nothing like Scottish or Irish but then, why should it be?

Friday, 12 August 2011

How people in science see each other


This is so good, I just had to blog it. I didn't make it - the original is here:
http://twitpic.com/63lcfq/full

Belgian chocolate really is as good as they say!

This crazy display is from a Bruges chocolate shop, The Chocolate Line. If you love chocolate, this place (the city and the shop!) is a must-visit location. Just walking in to the shop is a treat to the senses. The rich smell of the chocolate is fantastic. Eating the chocolates is even better. The only problem is deciding what kind to eat! (And how large your budget is going to be - they're not cheap!)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Best burger in Britain?

This is actually my TripAdvisor review of The Dandy Lion pub in Bradford-on-Avon but I wanted to try out my new BlogPress App...

We went to The Dandy Lion on a Sunday evening (July 3rd 2011) and were mightily impressed. The place was very calm and relaxed (my brother had his 3 month old baby with him and this was no bother) and the bar staff were friendly and helpful. The menu was excellent and many tasty options were on offer.


I opted for the burger and it was outstanding. A definite contender for best pub burger in Britain IMHO! I asked for the chunky triple-cooked chips instead of the fries and I heartily recommend that option. (It's not a listed menu alternative but they were happy to oblige.) The chips came beautifully presented in a little bucket, adding to the overall charm.

Starter (camembert) and desert (sticky toffee pudding) were also fantastic. The service wasn't the speediest, so perhaps not the place for the impatient, but you can't rush good food, especially at these bargain prices!

Location:The Dandy Lion, Bradford-on-Avon

Death of a Monster

I used to work in a concrete behemoth, named Boldrewood. Over the past
few weeks, mechanical monsters have been nibbling away at this giant,
slowly reducing it to rubble. This picture was taken a couple of weeks
ago. My office was in that massive gap. I'm wondering how much longer it will last! (There's much less left now.)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

So long, SETI?

Times are tough and belts are being tightened everywhere with unwelcome consequences and closures. One such closure is some of the telescopes engaged in SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The iconic dishes scanning the skies for alien messages, so beloved by cheesy Science Fiction filmmakers, will scan the sky no more. Or at least, some of them won't. And perhaps more will be canned without private investment.

But does SETI represent a worthwhile use of money in such tough times? Or would only Hollywood miss SETI? (Not for long - I'm sure they can find some other stereotype to fill that particular niche.) Is SETI really anything than a rather expensive waste of time?

The chances of there being extraterrestrial life close enough to us in both time and space to detect their signals is pretty darn small. And even IF such life exists, they have to be emittng signals. And even IF they are, they have to be using a technology that we can detect and recognise. And even if they are
doing that, we have to be explicitly looking for that specific technology in the right part of the sky. Then, if we find a signal, what then? Presumably they are many light years away and would need all the same ifs in place on their side to see any messages from us, making communication incredibly difficult at best.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of science and endeavour for the sake of knowledge alone, and finding evidence of alien life would be cool, but the also has to be a cost/analysis of some kind. There is too much quality science that can be done on a budget - too many interesting questions to answer - to fritter money on an exercise that is both likely to fail and unlikely to be of any use even if it succeeds. Furthermore, there are too many immediate issues and worthy causes in our world without encouraging philanthropists to direct their cash to an off-world whimsy.

I'm not saying we should scrap SETI completely. It's just that it will probably take years to find anything - if it ever does - and then many more years before anything can be done with the discovery. Given this, slowing things down two-, four- or even ten-fold with a bit of a budget cut is not really the end of the world.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Making Britain shite

So, a bunch of mindless, selfish bastards have decided to join the striking bin men in their attempt to turn Britain into a craphole by looting and burning their way through various bits of the capital.

What are these people thinking?! How can they possibly think that they are doing anything except hurting their communities and, ultimately themselves. It's the average Joe who is going to find themself out of work because their shop's been ransacked, lacking public services because of the cost of the police operation and cleanup, or paying higher insurance premiums etc. because of all the claims.

I hope the little shits involved all get caught and given life sentences of community service. For the rest of their lives, they should be forced back onto the streets to clean, tidy and mend stuff. And burn with shame. (Fat chance.)

Monday, 8 August 2011

iPad therefore I blog (again)

Well, this is my first blog for a while and the first using my new iPad. I had a quick look for a blogging App but, being too cheap to buy one, and failing to find a free one, I soon gave up on that and thought I'd go raw and do it in Safari.

I didn't realise, however, quite how raw I would have to be. It seems that the main blogger "Compose" window does not really like Safari on the iPad, or perhaps visa versa, and so I am limited to writing in raw HTML. Not a big problem - and I'm sure I'll develop good tagging skills - but it does slow down formatting somewhat.

Worse, it seems impossible to add any photos. I tried linking from a URL but that did not work. Perhaps coding the link directly in HTML will work but this is not really desirable. Oh well, here goes...







Hmmm. Either the Preview has failed or my HTML did - or the Picasa link is not a happy one to use. I guess I will just publish and see. Perhaps I should just stop being so cheap and buy a decent blogging App...